20 Oct Improving my child’s life chances
We all want the best for our children and the next generation. As parents and educators, the upbringing we provide children aims to make them well-rounded people with a broad skill set. But what does this really mean and how do we do it? In the end, it’s all about empowering children to be successful in life, however they define that success and whichever way it makes them happiest.
Let’s take a looks at how people take control of their destiny and become successful and how we can pass that onto our children.
How to improve my child’s life chances
So why do I use the phrase ‘life chances’? It’s because words like ‘success’ evoke images of rich people in flash cars. For some, that does represent success but everyone has their own aspirations. Furthermore, we cannot guarantee success, but we can improve the chance of success – whatever that looks like.
For people to be successful they must develop the attitude and skills to change and even create their desired circumstances.
But here’s the truth of the matter:
Very few people have these skills and this attitude.
But this is great news for people who can develop these skills and become masters of their own destiny.
Generate positivity and optimism
The first and overriding key to increasing life chances is cultivating a positive attitude. It sounds wishy-washy, but it’s not. In fact, in multiple controlled studies, successful people (particularly entrepreneurs) have a tendency to be very positive. It’s not just because they’re successful that they have a positive outlook – positive people are more likely to succeed in any given task.
But why is it so important?
A positive attitude has a lot of power. The ability to see solutions, look on the bright side, inspire others and get through challenging times is paramount to success. It’s also key to believe you can influence your environment and change your circumstance as this facilitates an ambitious mindset.
Create a can do atmosphere around children. Even if your child comes up with a bad idea or plan, question it as opposed to shutting it down. Respond with “yes, but how will that work?” or “okay, what issues might there be if we do that?”
Learn to deal with stress
We often label situations as “stressful” or describe people as being “stressed” without really thinking about what that means. We also tend to demonise stress itself. But that’s not particularly helpful.
Measuring the effectiveness of schools requires exams and inspections. From the moment children begin their schooling, they are being examined. With the rise of social media, teenagers also feel the pressure of comparison and competition with their peers.
Exams are stressful because we place so much onus on their outcome. Being in competition with others can create anxiety too. But the reality is that these kinds of stresses exist at every stage of life and trying to avoid stressful situations is actually counter to raising a child with better life chances. What you need to do is enable a child to deal with stress more effectively and raise them to be more resilient in the face of challenges.
Don’t just associate stress with worry; associate it with action.
In reality, stress a really important and successful people not only deal with it but harness its power. You probably know that stress stimulates the hormone cortisol. Well, this hormone makes us superhuman. It’s our built-in fight-or-flight response and it should create positive action.
Provide kids with role models
No one underestimates the power of role models for children, but knowing why and what effect they have is important. Role models who are successful in some way are great because they might help children aspire to that success, but they don’t necessarily inspire them to do the things they need to make them successful. Seek out role models where their hard work and resolve got them to be where they are today. Knowing how other people overcame challenges and seized their opportunities can help a child emulate that success and improve their own life chances.
Allow children to define success, themselves
In our materialist, capitalist society, we tend to define success as being “wealthy”. Wealth means different things to different people, and it’s not always about owning a big house, a nice car, and lots objects. As a society we’re beginning to realise that material goods don’t really make us happy. The ‘new rich’ as they’ve been branded are seeking freedom and experiences. For some, making an impact on society, making people’s lives better, or saving the planet is their driving factor.
Here’s where, as adults, we have to provide guidance and freedom simultaneously. We need to empower the next generation with skills and beliefs without imposing our own aspirations and desires on them. If your child is seven years old, we can’t coerce them into a career we want for them. We must, instead, begin equipping them with the skills and attributes they’ll need to achieve whatever dreams they decide to have.
Promote ‘soft skills’ and key character traits
Certain character traits and abilities are often called ‘soft skills’ in the school system. They’re not academic subjects and they don’t have a mark scheme. However, they’re almost certainly as valuable in a child being leading a happy and successful life.
Soft skills are pretty much everything outside the remit of academic and athletic skill. Skills like communication, and leadership as well as vital life skills such as problem-solving and time-management get lumped into this category, often viewed as secondary to strong academic performance. Characteristics such as resilience, resourcefulness and creativity are treated differently to reading, writing and arithmetic.
But the truth is that these skills actually have more influence on someone’s career success than academic performance. Very few roles rely solely on academic ability – pretty much only university professors, researchers and workers in highly technical jobs. The vast majority of roles in most industries call for very strong communication and interpersonal skills with academic performance mainly used as a screening process and to ensure a base level of intelligence and work ethic.
Does my child need a university education to be successful?
We know that education has a positive impact on professional success and, contrary to popular belief, most of the world’s super-rich businesspeople did go to college or university. Today’s generation of successful entrepreneurs aren’t the wheeler-dealer opportunists people expect them to be – they’re very smart and they’re usually well educated. Of course, this is partly down to the fact that a greater proportion of the population now goes to university.
You need to remember that whilst higher education improves life chances, so does experience. How much life experience could someone gain from spending three years out in the field, getting to know industry influencers, learning basic WordPress skills and trying some ideas out?
There is a lot of cross-over between children growing up with the power to shape their success and them being, what I would define as enterprising. Check out our blog post: 38 ways to help children be more enterprising.